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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Fall 2015 Textbooks

There are many places where you can find the textbooks for my classes, but you can buy them--and you must use paper editions, not Kindle or other electronic editions--for all of my classes by following this link to the PCC Bookstore online service.  Books will be available through PCC's bookstore online by July 31, 2015.

During past semesters the process for purchasing your textbooks through the PCC bookstore included these steps, and it has probably remained the same. First, you should have your course registration sheet with you as you place your order. Next, click on Fall 2015, and then look for EF-English to begin your search. You'll select the course name and number, and then the section number for the class in which you are enrolled.  


NOTE: The prices are approximate costs for the textbooks; however, book prices are always subject to change. Remember: You must buy the paper editions of the books, not the e-version.

latest edition; should be the 4th edition
ed. by Cohen
New: about $35

 (PCC UPD CUSTOM; latest edition)  
by Hacker
New: about $60

Publisher: Signet Classics
New: about $7

Publisher: Schiffer Publishing (July 15, 2007)
New: about $13

Other 1A materials
Los Angeles Times @>
and The New York Times
Go to each newspaper site and read some of each paper online every day;
it will help you with your assignments.
A dictionary and 3 large blue books and a stapler.

1A Field Trips
We will be visiting the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to see the exhibition on architect Frank Gehry.  The cost is still to be determined, but it will likely cost between $20-$50. We will also visit the Walt Disney Concert Hall, one of Gehry's preeminent buildings. Cost to be determined. You will provide your own transportation for both trips. Dates of the field trips are still to be determined, but will likely occur in October. Payment will be due to me by September 28th.

For more information about the LACMA exhibition on Gehry see this page. For more information about Gehry's design of Walt Disney Concert Hall start with this page, and then follow the links at the bottom right corner of each page for more information about the hall's design.

 (latest edition; will likely be the 3rd edition)
by GARDNER et al
New: about $45

New: about $10
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service Inc.

New: about $20

Other 1B materials
Los Angeles Times @>
and The New York Times
Go to each newspaper site and read some of each paper online every day;
it will help you with your assignments.
A dictionary, plenty of paper, 3 large blue books, pens, and a stapler.

1B Field Trip
We will be seeing Arthur Miller's play All My Sons on Thursday, November 5th at 7:30pm at A Noise Within Theatre in Pasadena. We will likely meet with the actors for an informal discussion after the play. Student ticket prices will be about $20. Students will provide their own transportation. To learn more about the production of Miller's All My Sons click on this.

ENGLISH 7 (INSCAPE magazine publication)
Inscape 2014 and Inscape 2015

You can purchase the 2014 and 2015 issues of Inscape in the English Dept. office in C245. The copies are $5 each. Bring both issues of the magazine to our first meeting.

Books: Paper v. Plasma
As I mentioned above, Kindle or other electronic editions are not allowed for my classes. You must buy the paperback or hardcover copies. Why? For one reason listen to the radio program and read the article that follow below.

"Your Paper Brain and Your Kindle Brain aren't the Same Thing"

Would you like paper or plasma? That's the question book lovers face now that e-reading has gone mainstream. And, as it turns out, our brains process digital reading very differently.

Manoush Zomorodi, managing editor and host of WNYC's New Tech City, recalls a conversation with the Washington Post's Mike Rosenwald, who's researched the effects of reading on a screen. “He found, like I did, that when he sat down to read a book his brain was jumping around on the page. He was skimming and he couldn’t just settle down. He was treating a book like he was treating his Twitter feed," she says.

Neuroscience, in fact, has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards "non-linear" reading — a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page. 

“They call it a ‘bi-literate’ brain,” Zoromodi says. “The problem is that many of us have adapted to reading online just too well. And if you don’t use the deep reading part of your brain, you lose the deep reading part of your brain.”

So what's deep reading? It's the concentrated kind we do when we want to "immerse ourselves in a novel or read a mortgage document,” Zoromodi says. And that uses the kind of long-established linear reading you don't typically do on a computer. “Dense text that we really want to understand requires deep reading, and on the internet we don’t do that.”

Linear reading and digital distractions have caught the attention of academics like Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University.

“I don’t worry that we’ll become dumb because of the Internet,” Wolf says, "but I worry we will not use our most preciously acquired deep reading processes because we’re just given too much stimulation. That’s, I think, the nub of the problem.”

To keep the deep reading part of the brain alive and kicking, Zomorodi says that researchers like Wolf recommend setting aside some time each day to deep read on paper.

And now that children are seemingly growing up with a digital screen in each hand, Wolf says it’s also important that teachers and parents make sure kids are taking some time away from scattered reading. Adults need to ensure that children also practice the deeper, slow reading that we associate with books on paper.

“I think the evidence someday will be able to show us that what we’re after is a discerning ‘bi-literate’ brain,” Wolf says. “That’s going to take some wisdom on our part.”

This story originally aired on PRI's The Takeaway, a public radio program that invites you to be part of the American conversation.

Photographs by Andre Kertész

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Writers on Writing: Ta-Nehisi Coates (Perseverance)

You can also watch this video here,
find Atlantic articles by Coates here
and a story he did on rapper MF Doom for The New Yorker.
Coates was born in Baltimore in 1975.

Coates has received much attention on the publication of his book, Between the World and Me, which was published in July 2015. Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison has praised it, stating "I've been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates." His book has been reviewed in The New York Times, where Coates was also profiled. New York magazine profiled him as well.

Coates was interviewed by Rolling Stone. July 16, 2015, to discuss Between the World and Me, which is written as a letter to his son. [To read an adaption of it follow this link.] His book is in the tradition of James Baldwin's letter to his nephew that appears within Baldwin's book The Fire Next Time. [This link will take you to Baldwin's letter.] Both writers are discussing what it is to be an African-American in the United States of America. Here is a selection from Coates's interview with Rolling Stone:  

How old were you when you first encountered James Baldwin's work?

I was about 13 or 14 when I heard Malcolm X's speech "Message to the Grass Roots." He's criticizing the March on Washington, and he says they wouldn't even let [James] Baldwin get up and talk, because Baldwin's liable to say anything. I thought, "Who is this dude?" My exposure to him was as somebody who was slightly crazy, a guy who lobbed firebombs. Then I got to college and read The Fire Next Time and Going to Meet the Man, a short story collection. I have this fond memory of my time in college – I wasn't a great student, but my time was open and unrestricted. I remember sitting in this library at Howard University and reading The Fire Next Time in one session. It was such a pleasurable experience, to be lost in a work of art. I didn't really grasp the political points. Did I understand what Baldwin was saying about religion? No, not really. But I knew that it had been said really beautifully. I had that. When I went back to read The Fire Next Time, I remembered me as a 19-year-old kid, sitting in that library, lost. And I thought about how in this age, where the Internet is ubiquitous, it's very hard to have that experience. I had this vision of some 19-year-old kid sitting in a library somewhere, picking this book up, and just disappearing for a while. That was all I wanted.

That's not a quality found very often in writing these days.

Everybody thinks that an important book has to be a big, long book. But it was very important that this book be short. I actually wanted it to be even shorter – it's about 170 pages, and I wanted it to weigh in at about 120. This ain't something that should take you three months to get through. I mean, if you don't like it, that's another thing. But it should lend itself to re-reading.

Much of your writing in this book has such a lyrical, poetic quality, even when you're writing about profoundly painful subjects. How did you develop that voice?

It's something that makes me happy. I enjoy the challenge of trying to say things beautifully. The message is secondary in that sense. Obviously, I have something that I want to say that's very, very important to me – but the process of actually crafting it is essential. It went through several versions. At one point I sent a draft to Chris, and it was not working, so I took it apart paragraph by paragraph. This was about this time last summer. I printed a manuscript and numbered every paragraph in the order in which I thought they were supposed to go. Then I went back to the computer and typed up every single one of those paragraphs again, instead of cutting and pasting, because it allows you to run it through your mind again. Once I did that, I had the meat of the book. 

At the same time, some of the best parts of the book are when you're most blunt. There's a passage very early on where you say that the way we talk about race in America – even the phrase "white supremacy" – can serve as a cover for actual, physical violence. Is there a tension between those two aims?

Well, the lyricism doesn't serve if it's not conveying. Chris helped me a lot with that. He'd say, "OK, what does this mean? Clarify, clarify." A lot of the time, I write by ear. So in rough draft form it's probably a lot more lyrical. He'd say, "Ground this. What are you saying specifically?" A lot of times, I actually didn't know. You just have to write, and strip down, and rewrite, over and over and over again, until it's not only beautiful, but it actually says something. It's almost like a melody coming to you before the words.

One phrase that recurs in this book is "the Dream": the idea that America needs to wake up from the dream of race, the dream of whiteness. How did you come to that theme?

"The Dream" is lyrical in and of itself. It's a device, but again, I hope it clarifies. It's subverting the notion of the American Dream, subverting Martin Luther King's rendition of "I have a dream." I wanted to do something a little darker. It's no different than these movies where they say it's a darker version of some comic book story. This is very much the same thing. I just wanted to darken the filter a little bit and take it from another perspective.

How much has hip-hop informed your voice as a writer?

It's the biggest influence on my aesthetic as a writer. It actually influences the atheism in the book. One of the constant questions I get is "Why are you so depressing? Why are you so dark? What about hope?" But hope is not very important in hip-hop. I mean, there are certainly hopeful songs, but if you listen to Illmatic, hope is not a very important sentiment. Hope has very little to do with Mobb Deep. I remember when Nas said on a Mobb Deep song, "Shoot at the clouds, feels like the holy beast is watching us." I don't know if Nas would describe himself as an atheist, but the music has a very atheistic, dark feel to it. That shaped me a lot.

Do you find something positive in exploring that darkness, even if it's not hopeful? Is it therapeutic to turn pain and loss and fear into a book like this?

There's hope in there. There's beauty in there. But it's not a bowl of sugar. It's dark chocolate. It's a little bitter. And that's how it's supposed to be. You listen to a song like Biggie's "Everyday Struggle," which is in many ways sad, but in the middle of it there's this beautiful scene where Biggie thinks he's sold all of his coke, and he's going to see his friend, and he says, "At last, I'm literally lounging black." He feels happy in the midst of this. And then it all goes wrong: "Then I got a phone call that couldn't hit me harder." I think hope that's not cut with some sense of struggle is false. The thing that I can't understand about this question is, what great art would we describe as primarily hopeful? I don't read The Great Gatsby and think "hope." I think it's about the need, oddly enough, to politicize writing, to effectively turn writers into Senate aides. I'm not a fucking politician! I don't have to make people feel good at the end of the book. I don't have to do what Barack Obama does. That's not my burden. My burden is to try to describe things as precisely as I see them.

Coates has been a frequent guest on television news programs. Find links to some of them here.

photo of Coates by Andre Chung/The Washington Post/Getty

Monday, July 13, 2015

On Writing: Your Ultimate Dream

The Writing Assignment That Changes Lives

NPR     July 10, 2015

by Anya Kementz   

Why do you do what you do? What is the engine that keeps you up late at night or gets you going in the morning? Where is your happy place? What stands between you and your ultimate dream?
Heavy questions. One researcher believes that writing down the answers can be decisive for students.
He co-authored a paper that demonstrates a startling effect: nearly erasing the gender and ethnic minority achievement gap for 700 students over the course of two years with a short written exercise in setting goals.
Jordan Peterson teaches in the department of psychology at the University of Toronto. For decades, he has been fascinated by the effects of writing on organizing thoughts and emotions.
Experiments going back to the 1980s have shown that "therapeutic" or "expressive" writing can reduce depression, increase productivity and even cut down on visits to the doctor.
"The act of writing is more powerful than people think," Peterson says.
Most people grapple at some time or another with free-floating anxiety that saps energy and increases stress. Through written reflection, you may realize that a certain unpleasant feeling ties back to, say, a difficult interaction with your mother. That type of insight, research has shown, can help locate, ground and ultimately resolve the emotion and the associated stress.
At the same time, "goal-setting theory" holds that writing down concrete, specific goals and strategies can help people overcome obstacles and achieve.
'It turned my life around'
Recently, researchers have been getting more and more interested in the role that mental motivation plays in academic achievement — sometimes conceptualized as "grit" or "growth mindset" or "executive functioning."
Peterson wondered whether writing could be shown to affect student motivation. He created an undergraduate course called Maps of Meaning. In it, students complete a set of writing exercises that combine expressive writing with goal-setting.
Students reflect on important moments in their past, identify key personal motivations and create plans for the future, including specific goals and strategies to overcome obstacles. Peterson calls the two parts "past authoring" and "future authoring."
"It completely turned my life around," says Christine Brophy, who, as an undergraduate several years ago, was battling drug abuse and health problems and was on the verge of dropping out. After taking Peterson's course at the University of Toronto, she changed her major. Today she is a doctoral student and one of Peterson's main research assistants.
In an early study at McGill University in Montreal, the course showed a powerful positive effect with at-risk students, reducing the dropout rate and increasing academic achievement.
Peterson is seeking a larger audience for what he has dubbed "self-authoring." He started a for-profit company and is selling a version of the curriculum online. Brophy and Peterson have found a receptive audience in the Netherlands.
At the Rotterdam School of Management, a shortened version of self-authoring has been mandatory for all first-year students since 2011. (These are undergraduates — they choose majors early in Europe).
The latest paper, published in June, compares the performance of the first complete class of freshmen to use self-authoring with that of the three previous classes.
Overall, the "self-authoring" students greatly improved the number of credits earned and their likelihood of staying in school. And after two years, ethnic and gender-group differences in performance among the students had all but disappeared.
The ethnic minorities in question made up about one-fifth of the students. They are first- and second-generation immigrants from non-Western backgrounds — Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
While the history and legacy of racial oppression are different from that in the United States, the Netherlands still struggles with large differences in wealth and educational attainment among majority and minority groups.
'Zeroes are deadly'
At the Rotterdam school, minorities generally underperformed the majority by more than a third, earning on average eight fewer credits their first year and four fewer credits their second year. But for minority students who had done this set of writing exercises, that gap dropped to five credits the first year and to just one-fourth of one credit in the second year.
How could a bunch of essays possibly have this effect on academic performance? Is this replicable?
Melinda Karp is the assistant director for staff and institutional development at the Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University. She leads studies on interventions that can improve college completion. She calls Peterson's paper "intriguing." But, she adds, "I don't believe there are silver bullets for any of this in higher ed.
"Peterson believes that formal goal-setting can especially help minority students overcome what's often called "stereotype threat," or, in other words, to reject the damaging belief that generalizations about ethnic-group academic performance will apply to them personally.
Karp agrees. "When you enter a new social role, such as entering college as a student, the expectations aren't always clear." There's a greater risk for students who may be academically underprepared or who lack role models. "Students need help not just setting vague goals but figuring out a plan to reach them.
"The key for this intervention came at crunch time, says Peterson. "We increased the probability that students would actually take their exams and hand in their assignments." The act of goal-setting helped them overcome obstacles when the stakes were highest. "You don't have to be a genius to get through school; you don't even have to be that interested. But zeroes are deadly."
Karp has a theory for how this might be working. She says you often see at-risk students engage in self-defeating behavior "to save face."
"If you aren't sure you belong in college, and you don't hand in that paper," she explains, "you can say to yourself, 'That's because I didn't do the work, not because I don't belong here.'
"Writing down their internal motivations and connecting daily efforts to blue-sky goals may have helped these young people solidify their identities as students.
Brophy is testing versions of the self-authoring curriculum at two high schools in Rotterdam, and monitoring their psychological well-being, school attendance and tendency to procrastinate.
Early results are promising, she says: "It helps students understand what they really want to do."
Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit
You can also read this article online at NPR.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

"This Land is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie

performed by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
(acoustic, at the top, and with full band, above) 

"This Land is Your Land" Project from PBS American Masters

performed by Woody Guthrie

This Land is Your Land
words and music by Woody Guthrie
©1956 (renewed 1984), 1958 (renewed 1986) and 1970 TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)
Guthrie recorded several versions of his song. Here is an early version:

This land is your land This land is my land
From California to the New York island;
From the red wood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

I've roamed and rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts;
And all around me a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, and I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling,
As the fog was lifting a voice was chanting:
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

performed by Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen and more
at President Barack Obama's January 19, 2009 inauguration,
on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Misty Copeland Makes History

Promoted to Principal Dancer at American Ballet Theater
The New York Times, June 30, 2015

Misty Copeland, whose openness about race in ballet helped to make her one of the most famous ballerinas in the United States, was promoted on Tuesday by American Ballet Theater, becoming the first African-American female principal dancer in the company’s 75-year history.
Her promotion — after more than 14 years with the company, nearly eight as a soloist — came as Ms. Copeland’s fame spread far beyond traditional dance circles.
She made the cover of Time magazine this year, was profiled by “60 Minutes” and presented a Tony Award on this year’s telecast. She has written a memoir and a children’s book, and has more than a half-million followers on Instagram. An online ad she made for Under Armour has been viewed more than 8 million times, and she is the subject of a documentary screened this year at the Tribeca Film Festival.
To read the rest of this article click on this.

Misty Copeland report from 60 Minutes

Misty Copeland Makes the Cover of Time
The New York Times, April 16, 2015

For the first time in a generation a dancer has made the cover of Time magazine: Misty Copeland, the American Ballet Theater soloist, was chosen as one of the magazine’s “100 most influential people,” and is featured on one of the five different covers for its upcoming issue.

That puts her in rare company. Time officials said that the last time a dance figure made the magazine’s cover was in 1994, when the choreographer Bill T. Jones was featured. Previous dancers who got their own Time covers include Gelsey Kirkland (1978), Mikhail Baryshnikov (1975), Rudolf Nureyev (1965) and Margot Fonteyn (1949).
The rest of the The New York Times article appears here.  The New Yorker profiles Misty Copeland here. 

Friday, June 19, 2015


Bob Marley & The Wailers perform "War" in Boston, 1978
("War" flows directly into "Exodus.'
To hear "Exodus" click on this.)

Until the philosophy
which hold one race superior
And another
Is finally
And permanently
And abandoned
Everywhere is war
Me say war.

That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man's skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes
Me say war.

That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race
Dis a war.

That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
World citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained
Now everywhere is war - war.

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
That hold our brothers in Angola,
In Mozambique,
South Africa
Sub-human bondage
Have been toppled,
Utterly destroyed
Well, everywhere is war
Me say war.

War in the east,
War in the west,
War up north,
War down south
War - war
Rumours of war.
And until that day,
The African continent
Will not know peace,
We Africans will fight - we find it necessary
And we know we shall win
As we are confident
In the victory

Of good over evil
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil
Good over evil, yeah!
For information about Bob Marley see bio. and his official website. For information regarding songwriting credit for "War" read Wikipedia and watch this video clip.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

New U.S. Poet Laureate: Juan Felipe Herrera

June 10, 2015
Juan Felipe Herrera Named U.S. Poet Laureate

from the Academy of American Poets at

Academy of American Poets Chancellor Juan Felipe Herrera is the new U.S. Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Herrera is the first Mexican American poet to hold the position.

“Juan Felipe is someone who believes that poetry can make a difference in people’s lives and communities,” said executive director Jennifer Benka in a Washington Post article announcing the news. “He will bring an enthusiasm and electricity to the role of poet laureate that is sure to spark new and wider interest in the art form among people of all ages.”

Herrera was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2011. Chancellorship is an honorary distinction. Chancellors provide artistic guidance, champion our programs and poetry, and judge our largest prizes for poets, including our $100,000 Wallace Stevens Award.

Juan Felipe Herrera was born in Fowler, California, on December 27, 1948. The son of migrant farmers, Herrera moved often, living in trailers or tents along the roads of the San Joaquin Valley in Southern California. As a child, he attended school in a variety of small towns from San Francisco to San Diego. He began drawing cartoons while in middle school, and by high school was playing folk music by Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie.

Herrera graduated from San Diego High in 1967, and was one of the first wave of Chicanos to receive an Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) scholarship to attend UCLA. There, he became immersed in the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, and began performing in experimental theater, influenced by Allen Ginsberg and Luis Valdez.

In 1972, Herrera received a BA in Social Anthropology from UCLA. He received a masters in Social Anthropology from Stanford in 1980, and went on to earn an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1990.

His interests in indigenous cultures inspired him to lead a formal Chicano trek to Mexican Indian villages, from the rain forest of Chiapas to the mountains of Nayarit. The experience greatly changed him as an artist. His work, which includes video, photography, theater, poetry, prose, and performance, has made Herrera a leading voice on the Mexican American and indigenous experience.

Juan Felipe Herrera is the author of numerous poetry collections and other works that include video, photography, theater, prose, and performance, making him a leading voice on the Mexican American and indigenous experience. Read more about his life and work, watch exclusive video of the poet performing his work, and more.

Additional information about Herrera can be found at a Library of Congress web guide. An excellent profile of Herrera appears at The New York Times. Further New York Times coverage appears here. More at the Los Angeles Times and NPR.

A video on California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera. This is part of the documentary film "Go Chanting, Libre," which profiles four Chicano poets who participated in the Poetry in the Schools program. Produced in 1984 by Ed Kissam and Rick Tejada-Flores for KRCB TV. For more information and to order a DVD, contact


by Juan Felipe Herrera

Odd to be a half-Mexican, let me put it this way
I am Mexican + Mexican, then there’s the question of the half
To say Mexican without the half, well it means another thing
One could say only Mexican
Then think of pyramids – obsidian flaw, flame etchings, goddesses with
Flayed visages claw feet & skulls as belts – these are not Mexican
They are existences, that is to say
Slavery, sinew, hearts shredded sacrifices for the continuum
Quarks & galaxies, the cosmic milk that flows into trees
Then darkness
What is the other – yes
It is Mexican too, yet it is formless, it is speckled with particles
European pieces? To say colony or power is incorrect
Better to think of Kant in his tiny room
Shuffling in his black socks seeking out the notion of time
Or Einstein re-working the erroneous equation
Concerning the way light bends – all this has to do with
The half, the half-thing when you are a half-being



How they stalk you & how you beseech them
All this becomes your life-long project, that is
You are Mexican. One half Mexican the other half
Mexican, then the half against itself.

Herrera with UC Riverside students for a poetry reading.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Press Release
PEN Center USA announces: 
The 2016 Emerging Voices Fellowship Application Is Now Open 

Los Angeles, CA: PEN Center USA, a literary nonprofit based in Beverly Hills, is pleased to announce the 2016 Emerging Voices Fellowship application period is now open. 

Application Deadline for the 2016 Emerging Voices Fellowship is August 10, 2015.

Founded in 1995, the Emerging Voices Fellowship aims to provide new writers, who lack access, with the specific tools they need to launch a professional writing career. Over the course of eight months, each Emerging Voices Fellow participates in a professional mentorship; hosted Author Evenings with prominent local authors; editors and agents; a series of master classes focused on genre; a voice class; courses donated by UCLA Writers’ Extension Program; three public readings; and a $1,000 stipend. Past mentors have included authors Ron Carlson, Harryette Mullen, Chris Abani, Ramona Ausubel, Meghan Daum, and Sherman Alexie.

Participants need not be published, but the fellowship is directed toward poets and writers of fiction and creative nonfiction with clear ideas of what they hope to accomplish through their writing. For eligibility requirements and to download the application, go here:

Recent Emerging Voices accomplishments of note include 2005 Emerging Voices Fellow Cynthia Bond whose novel Ruby (Hogarth Press) was acquired for film rights by Oprah Winfrey and selected as Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 Pick. 2008 Emerging Voices Alum Shanna Mahin's novel, Oh! You Pretty Things (Dutton - Penguin Books USA) was published last month and received a glowing review from the New York Times. 

To date, 125 individuals have completed the Emerging Voices Fellowship. Alumni have published over thirty books and have received hundreds of anthology inclusions, awards, honors, and fellowships. For more alumni news, go here:

PEN Center USA, a branch of PEN International, has a membership of more than 700 professional writers and strives to protect the rights of writers around the world, to stimulate interest in the written word, and to foster a vital literary community among the diverse writers living in the western states.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Bill Gates, College Dropout: Don't Be Like Me

Bill Gates is something of a model for education skeptics. Mr. Gates — like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey — dropped out of college. If they didn’t need a college degree, the skeptics suggest, maybe you don’t need one, either.
Mr. Gates has just published a blog post with something of a reply: Yes, you do need one.
“Although I dropped out of college and got lucky pursuing a career in software, getting a degree is a much surer path to success,” he writes.
“College graduates are more likely to find a rewarding job, earn higher income, and even, evidence shows, live healthier lives than if they didn’t have degrees. They also bring training and skills into America’s work force, helping our economy grow and stay competitive.”
He adds, “It’s just too bad that we’re not producing more of them.”
The post is tied to an interview Mr. Gates has done with Cheryl Hyman, the chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, the city’s network of community colleges. During her five-year tenure, the system has started to raise its abysmally low graduation rate. One of her main pushes has been simplifying the course-selection process, so students know what courses they need to take and can enroll in them. The complexity of that process at many colleges is a bigger problem than many people realize.

In a blog post Wednesday, Bill Gates wrote,  “Although I dropped out of college and got lucky pursuing a career in software, getting a degree is a much surer path to success."CreditSeth Wenig/Associated Press

“The problem isn’t that not enough people are going to college,” Mr. Gates writes. “The problem is that not enough people are finishing.” About one-fifth of the working-age population, he notes, have attended some college without earning a degree.

The attention that Mr. Gates and his foundation are putting on college completion is part of a broader push on the subject. The Obama administration has also started emphasizing college completion, as have some governors and mayors, both Republican and Democratic.

It’s still not clear exactly what works best in reducing dropout rates, but it is clear that doing so matters. As I wrote recently, two large recent studies suggest that college graduation itself matters. (And other studies have come to similar conclusions.) Not only do students learn from the courses they take, but they also learn the valuable skill of seeing something through to the end — of figuring out how to finish what they started and of gaining the confidence that comes with that success.

The broader economic weakness over the past 15 years — which has affected college graduates, too — has created a fair amount of cynicism about college. People worry, somewhat understandably, that the economy is a zero-sum game in which producing more college graduates will simply force those graduates to fight over a fixed number of good jobs. But the evidence points strongly in the other direction.

Education, as David Autor, the M.I.T. economist, notes, is not a game of musical chairs. More educated societies generally become richer, healthier and better functioning over time. Take the United States, which led the way in making high school universal in the early 20th century. Or South Korea, which has rapidly expanded its number of college graduates in recent decades.

“It’s hard to find examples of countries that have not ultimately benefited from sustained investments in modern education,” Mr. Autor said. “The evidence favors the idea that human capital investments pay off over the medium and long term."

 I’ve pointed out before that even education skeptics aren’t skeptical about the value of education — and college — for their own children. One of the world’s most famous college dropouts isn’t skeptical about it, either.